Considering eloping in Yosemite National Park? I don’t blame you for being so drawn to it! Yosemite is a truly gorgeous place, with more than 1,500 acres of wilderness to explore. In fact, Yosemite is partly to thank for all of our amazing national parks! It was first declared a public trust of California in 1864, which was the first time that the government ever protected land for public enjoyment. This laid the foundation for our national and state parks systems.
But enough about that! You’re here because you want to elope in one of the most gorgeous places in the country, and there’s lots to consider for your perfect elopement! I’ve compiled this list of resources for you all in one handy place so that you can plan the best day possible and eliminate any unintended surprises!
The National Park Service (NPS) has a pre-approved list of spots to hold a wedding ceremony that you can find here. I’m going to talk about three that I’ve personally been to here. But know that there are lots to choose from to fit your perfect day! To avoid crowds at any location you choose, NPS recommends that you elope on a weekday if possible (Monday through Thursday). If you aren’t opposed to a sunrise or morning elopement, NPS states that mornings tend to be much less crowded than evenings! Personally, though, I recommend a sunset elopement if you choose Yosemite Valley or Taft Point.
Yosemite Valley has a ton of beautiful spots you can pick to have your elopement ceremony! When I was there for a shoot in 2020, it was closer to sunset. The light streaming through the mountains was just unbeatable. It’s hard to describe just how beautiful everything is when the sun hits it just right, but take a look for yourself! The Valley is accessible year-round, so planning an elopement at any time of the year is possible here. The water levels are higher in the spring months due to snow melt, but that shouldn’t affect your ability to explore or hold your ceremony. You can park along the road or in one of the parking lots throughout the valley, so you don’t have to worry about factoring in extra time to walk or hike to any locations here.
Next up in the location list for eloping in Yosemite is Taft Point, which is reachable with a moderate hike! It’s a shorter trek, about 30 minutes. But it’s a steeper elevation change, so be prepared to work a little to get there and back. Taft Point has views of El Capitan and Yosemite Falls, which makes it a gorgeous spot to elope. But that also means it’s very popular and can get crowded, especially with other couples who are eloping! Don’t worry, there are always ways for your photographer to use their magic and shoot around others. Take full advantage of these views! The way the light just pierces through here really is breathtaking. Access to Taft Point is from June to October by using Glacier Point Road. The road is closed during the winter months, so plan accordingly!
My third location recommendation for eloping in Yosemite is Glacier Point, which I recommend a sunrise elopement for! The way the sun rises over Half Dome is a magical experience. Of course, you will have to get up very, VERY early in order to reach Glacier Point before the sun comes up. But it is absolutely worth it (and I’m saying that as someone who is definitely not a morning person!).
There are lots of ways to get to Glacier Point, too. If you want to hike most of the way there, there are three different hiking paths to take. Glacier Point Road will also get you close, and then it’s just a fifteen minute walk to the point from the parking lot. However, at the time of writing this, Glacier Point Road is scheduled to be completely closed for ALL of 2022. There will be delays for most of 2023 due to the construction as well. So, if you’re planning to elope at Glacier Point in 2022, you will have to hike all the way there! NPS rates these hikes as “strenuous.” You can read more about this closure and alternate access points here on the NPS website. Usually, Glacier Point Road is closed for the winter months and open from about June to October.
Any wedding or elopement in Yosemite goes through approval by the parks service. But don’t worry! It’s a relatively simple process. Just fill out the permit application here, which also comes with a permit fee of $150. (There are additional fees and requirements for larger parties, so be sure to pay attention to that as well.) Once you’re approved for eloping in Yosemite, that’s it! The only other thing to worry about is entrance fees into the park. A $35 fee per vehicle grants you a 7-day pass to Yosemite. There are also some special passes for active military, veterans, and seniors.
What else should you consider when planning your elopement at Yosemite? Firstly, bring a map so that you don’t get lost! If you choose a location where you’ll be hiking a bit, wear sensible shoes and change into what you’ll wear for your ceremony when you get there. Of course, bring lots and lots of water and snacks. I also recommend flashlights if you’re hiking before sunrise or after sunset. Layers to keep warm after the sun goes down is a good idea, too.
Lastly, do your best to adopt a “leave no trace” mindset! Be respectful of the land and wildlife while you enjoy all the beauty it has to offer, be responsible with your trash, and of course be mindful of where you walk when you’re up high at Taft or Glacier Point! Check the trail and weather conditions before you head out.
Eloping in Yosemite is going to be absolutely beautiful, and hopefully these resources help you plan the best day possible! If you haven’t found the right photographer to accompany you yet, let me throw my hat in the ring! Check out my investment page here, and get in touch here to discuss the details! I can’t wait.